I don't know if this could be helpful in terms of sorting out your thought processes, but I'll tell you why we don't call ourselves unschoolers.
In essence, I am not happy for my kids to do anything they want or nothing. I'm happy to be extremely child led. I'm happy for my kids to largely decide what they want to learn. I'm happy for them to decide how they want to learn it. But I have certain bottom lines. I do want my kids reading by around age 8 and to have basic handwriting and spelling skills and have read/be familiar with a range of books. I want my kids to have covered the basics of mathematics, ideally by around age 12. I want them to have basic social skills and manners. I want them to have some appreciation of history and science. I am extremely flexible about how they learn this. For example, my older two basically seem to be picking up spelling, as well as science and history, by reading and watching the odd documentary. I did teach my oldest to read but he was miserable about not reading and struggled in typical dyslexic fashion, I didn't teach my others and they have so far picked it up and are picking it up. The only thing we do regularly is math, and tbh my kids really like math (my partner is a mathematician and we are a sciency family) so I could probably even argue that that was child-led. And we do lots of fun math. I am sure I could blog our lives to make us sound unschooly but that would not be the point.
I feel that my kids have quite a lot of freedom to choose what they learn, but they don't have the choice to learn nothing, and they specifically do not have the choice to be unable to read, do basic maths, or not to learn social skills or knowledge that I personally consider important to being part of our culture. An unschooler, to me, is someone who has that trust not only that their kids will learn what they need to learn, but more fundamentally, that if they do not learn to do things that their parents would normally consider really important then that is ok. I don't have that. To be honest, dropping by my house a lot of the time people probably might assume we were unschoolers, but I would not ever claim to be, because at the end of the day, while I will give my kids a lot of educational freedom, this is because I actually believe it to be in certain areas a superior way to achieve what are MY, not my kids' educational goals. I do not say to my kids, "you MUST do this by age x". I do not force them to sit and work. When I really feel strongly that they need to learn something, and they disagree, I have a conversation with them and attempt to convince them. But at the end of the day, if the were illiterate at age 10 I'd do something about it, and to my mind having those hard limits is what makes me not an unschooler.
To give a concrete example. I believe that by age seven kids need to have a range of prereading skills in order to become good, enthusiastic, fluent readers and premath skills to be good at math. Unless my kids show an interest, I don't push reading, phonics etc at all til they are about seven. I prefer they spend their time playing, being read to, drawing etc. So my educational approach to age seven is very much an unschooling-like one. But this is actually because I think that at this age kids will be drawn to and develop the skills that they need pretty much of their own accord, and anything more structured is really a diversion. (that's a simplification-its also partly that I think childhood is short and I want them to really enjoy it). So I am kind of using the techniques of unschooling with a pedagogical aim of my own. Which to me can never, philosophically, be unschooling, and I'd never want to claim it was because I think it would be quite insulting to proper unschoolers.
I don't know how much sense that makes. Please understand too that I am in no way making a criticism of unschooling. I think its a great approach, just one that I don't have the nerve to do. What I'm trying to say is that I think unschooling is a deep philosophical position, rather than an educational approach. Incidentally, I could be wrong here as most of my information about unschooling does come from the internet and also having read every single one of Holt's books including his collected letters-round here, hardcore unschooling is really fairly unusual. I'm aware that there are different shades of unschooling and I don't want to suggest that any one is less valid than the others. If anyone thinks I've misunderstood the nature of unschooling, you are probably right.
By the way, I totally agree with the poster who said think about what your kids need and don't worry about labels.
Edited by Fillyjonk - 1/15/13 at 9:38am